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Get Lucky: The Story Behind Daft Punk’s Jackpot-Winning Song
In Depth

Get Lucky: The Story Behind Daft Punk’s Jackpot-Winning Song

Blending disco, funk and house music, Daft Punk's team-up with Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Pharrell Williams became an unstoppable party anthem.


One of the best songs of the 21st century, Daft Punk’s Get Lucky took the world by storm in the spring of 2013. Upon its release, the chart-topping hit was embraced as an instant classic, and its irresistible groove and catchy chorus have since been a mainstay on dancefloors across the globe. At the heart of Get Lucky’s success lies the creative collaboration between the French house duo Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel De Homen-Christo and two musical legends: Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers and The Neptunes’ producer Pharrell Williams.

Together, this dream team brought their diverse talents and influences to the table, bridging the worlds of dance music, funk and R&B to create a song that was both retro and futuristic, as well as being timeless and fresh. Here is the story of how Daft Punk hit the jackpot with Get Lucky.

Listen to the best of Daft Punk here.

The backstory: “These things are impossible to create with machines”

Aiming to challenge the norms of modern music production, Daft Punk had a very clear concept in mind for their 2013 album, Random Access Memories. After revolutionising electronic dance music with their unique brand of French house across a trio of records, Homework, Discovery and Human After All, the mysterious “robots” (aka Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo) set out to create an album that had a live and organic feel, abandoning the computer-based convenience of Pro Tools and Auto-Tune in favour of real and authentic instrumentation. “It’s an infinity of nuance, in the shuffles and the grooves,” Bangalter said in an interview with The New York Times, explaining what they wanted to achieve. “These things are impossible to create with machines.”

Reflecting their desire to evoke the mirrorball fantasia of 70s funk, soul and disco, Bangalter and Homem-Christo called upon the talents of legendary Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers to help realise their vision. “They wanted the classic Nile, almost like we were doing a record back in the day,” Rodgers told GQ magazine. Flying out to Electric Lady Studios, in New York City, Daft Punk played Rodgers some initial demos, but the guitarist suggested they work together to come up with something new instead. “As a studio musician, I make records on the spot,” Rodgers explained to the guitar manufacturers Fender. “I don’t know what song I’m going to play before I get there, but when I get there, what I try and do is try and come up with the most clever part as quickly as possible.”

Known for his ability to create hits on the fly, Rodgers worked up a dazzling chord arrangement and laid down a funky guitar riff that became the foundation for Get Lucky. The song, at this point, was little more than a groove-based instrumental, but Bangalter and Homem-Christo knew they had something special on their hands. Rodgers’ creative approach to guitar playing not only evoked the timeless feel of the best Chic songs, but it also became the Trojan horse that Daft Punk needed to bring their game-changing musical concept to life.

The recording: “I got to hear it with the freshest of ears, and I was just blown away”

After heading back to France to continue production on Random Access Memories, Daft Punk drew up a wish list of other guest musicians they wanted to collaborate with. At the top was Pharrell Williams, The Neptunes producer and N.E.R.D mainman who’d masterminded era-defining hits by the likes of Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears. Inviting him to join them at Gang Recording Studio, in Paris, Bangalter and Homem-Christo were surprised when Pharrell revealed he was “in a Nile Rodgers place” with his music.

Remembering the instrumental they had cut with Rodgers in New York, Bangalter and Homem-Christo decided to present Pharrell with the idea for Get Lucky. The chance to collaborate with the Chic guitarist, albeit remotely, was a dream come true for Pharrell, who shared Daft Punk’s view that people had lost respect for groove-based music and that most modern pop hits had become overly synthetic. In contrast, Rodgers’ work with Daft Punk was just as stylish and sophisticated as it was in disco’s glory days. Beset by jet lag and woozy from the effects of an effervescent recovery tablet, Pharrell began to compose lyrics for the song and worked up his magic by singing a vocal melody over Rodgers’ guitar parts.

Speaking about the recording process, Pharrell later said that “the music was as alive as the air was” and that the song felt “kind of like the mid-70s, early-80s, of a different universe and dimension, not of this one”. With Get Lucky’s lyrics capturing the warm glow of starry-eyed lust, Pharrell explained that the song was ultimately about the initial spark that comes with encountering a potential love interest. “Getting lucky is not just sleeping with her,” he explained, “but meeting someone for the first time and it just clicking. There is no better fortune in this existence to me.”

Pharrell’s experience working with Daft Punk was something of a blur, and to this day he claims to have no recollection of it, almost as if his memory was wiped by the robots, like a scene from Men In Black. As a result, when Pharrell heard the finished song, he was just as surprised as the rest of the world. “I got to hear it with, like, the freshest of ears, and I was just blown away,” he said. The collaboration between Daft Punk, Pharrell and Nile Rodgers on Get Lucky had been a true meeting of musical minds, resulting in one of the most iconic songs of the decade.

The release: “I was facing life and death issues… This could feel more special than any other No.1”

Released on 19 April 2013, Get Lucky was the lead single from Random Access Memories, and it quickly became an international phenomenon, establishing itself as one of the best Daft Punk songs and giving the duo their biggest chart success to date. Peaking at No.1 in the UK and No.2 in the US, the song sold over a million copies in just over two months, blasting from speakers everywhere as one of the year’s most inescapable party anthems. With Rodgers’ guitar-based virtuosity and Pharrell’s undeniable star power rekindling the commercial appeal of disco, Get Lucky single-handedly repopularised the sound of 70s funk for modern audiences.

Sounding as if it had beamed down to planet Earth from a far-off galaxy, Get Lucky stayed true to Daft Punk’s sci-fi aesthetic by transporting listeners back in time to a boogie wonderland. For Nile Rodgers, who had been diagnosed with cancer just two years before, it felt as if the hand of destiny was at work. “Maybe this could feel more special than any other No.1 record simply because of that,” he said in an interview with The Official Charts Company. “I was facing life and death issues and then to get something so rewarding as a No.1 record is pretty amazing.” Though Rodgers was no stranger to having No.1 hits of his own, the timing behind his collaboration with Daft Punk seemed to have been written in the stars.

Even Pharrell Williams was taken aback by Get Lucky’s massive success. “I didn’t know it would be breaking records across the board, I had no idea,” he told MTV. However, he was quick to acknowledge Daft Punk’s otherworldly foresight: “I was with the robots yesterday, and, of course, they’re super thankful, too.” With Rodgers’ infectious melody and Pharrell’s catchy lyrics contributing to the song’s popularity and enduring appeal, not only did Get Lucky give Daft Punk their second-ever UK No.1 hit – 13 years on from 2000’s One More Time – but it also proved their zeitgeist-carrying pull was stronger than ever.

The legacy: “The relationship between myself and daft punk was just so unbelievably right”

Ever since its release, Get Lucky has only grown in stature as a cross-cultural sensation that ingeniously combined the disco magic of Chic’s funk-pop wizardry with Pharrell’s spellbinding R&B sensibility. By creating a chart-topping anthem that eschewed electronic beats in favour of using real instrumentation, Daft Punk reasserted their role as innovators in the music industry, paving the way for a fresh yet decidedly retro approach to dance-pop. Going on to win Record Of The Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, Get Lucky continues to be endlessly replayed in nightclubs across the world.

Additionally, Get Lucky played a pivotal part in helping Nile Rodgers reclaim his place among the best guitarists of all time. Paving the way for a reversal of fortunes for the Chic icon, it also encouraged him to head back out on the road. “I don’t want to sound corny, but sometimes it just feels cosmic and organic,” he admitted. “The relationship between myself and Daft Punk was just so unbelievably right.”

Even Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo, who had built a career hiding behind their robot personas, couldn’t help but comment on Get Lucky’s success. “Like every song on this record, it was something really organic,” Bangalter said to Rolling Stone magazine. Noting how Get Lucky combined “what Nile Rodgers represents for dance music and R&B in America in the 70s and the 80s” and what Pharrell represented “in the 90s and 2000s”, Bangalter felt that Daft Punk had connected “all these eras together to create the music of the present and possibly the music of the future as well”.

By turns nostalgic and forward-looking, Get Lucky not only remains one of the best 2010s songs, but it also holds up as one of the most celebratory and unifying dance hits of modern times. In an era where digital downloads and streaming are blurring genre divides, Daft Punk were able to successfully bridge the sounds of distinct eras of music to create something truly special. With Nile Rodgers and Pharrell joining them for the ride, Get Lucky remains out of this world.

Buy signed Thomas Bangalter vinyl at the Dig! store.

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